|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: John Morand|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website: Kinetic Element|
|Tracks: 7||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 69:16|
Kinetic Element is the brainchild of Richmond, Virginia based keyboardist Mike Visaggio. Getting started in 1970 as part of the progressive rock group Randori, Visaggio recorded three albums and an EP with Billy Falcon’s Burning Rose between 1975 and 1981 before spending the next several years in a pair of mid-eighties New York area Christian rock groups, Innervision and The Ambassadors. After taking a nearly twenty year hiatus from music, Visaggio returned in 2006 with his first solo release, the joining of classic rock, progressive rock and new age elements that is Starship Universe.
The artist initially put Kinetic Element together to perform the music of Starship Universe. The group, however, has expanded upon its repertoire by also incorporating select classic rock and progressive rock covers in addition to the material making up its independently released 2009 full length debut Powered By Light.
What we have in Powered By Light is keyboard driven progressive rock reminiscent to Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, early Genesis, The Moody Blues and Pink Floyd. Yes, keyboards play a heavy role here, a particular testament to the talents of Visaggio, who plays a five-keyboard set up and specializes in the Hammond B-3 sound. That said, Powered By Light does not come without its share of guitar driven moments. Guitarist Todd Russell, for instance, decorates the project with his sometimes jazzy and at others fusion-like lead guitar work but can also contribute a tasteful edge of rhythm guitar when need calls for it.
Visaggio, who also acts as the group’s main composer and vocalist, might not display the most abundant vocal range but his even, mid-ranged flavorings blend well with the musical happenings at hand.
Fans of progressive rock in all its forms - including Transatlantic, Neal Morse, Tiles, KDB3 and Proto-Kaw - will find a lot to like here; but those whose musical tastes stray towards progressive music on the heavier side of things - think Darkwater, Shadow Gallery, Suspyre or Threshold – should be able to embrace this is well. No, Kinetic Element is not metal (or even hard rock) but if you need a break from the genre and/or are in a progressive mood then Powered By Light easily fits the bill.
One of the strengths to Kinetic Element is its instrumental sound. Lengthier pieces such as the sixteen minute “Reconciliation”, twelve minute “Peace Of Mind, Peace Of Heart” and ten minute “See The Children” (by the way, did I tell you this is a progressive rock release?) find the band making frequent jam band influenced excursions into extended instrumental territory. “Shorter” numbers such as the seven minute “Now And Forever” (this one brings some of the albums more guitar driven moments), nine minute “Riding In Time” (laid back feeling here) and eight minute “The Ascent” (more upbeat heading) features their share of instrumental moments as well.
Packaging is professionally done as is the production.
While I might hesitate to call Kinetic Element a Christian group, Powered By Light features “subtle Christian lyrics” reflective of Visaggio’s faith. This is best found on “The Ascent”:
You built our hearts deep and intense
Finally looked outside ourselves for some sense
Bright and morning star, changer of hearts
Now and forever great than the sum of all parts
And “Peace Of Mind, Peace Of Heart” as well:
But faith, hope, love, these three abide
No act of hate, no insidious plan
Can wipe them out, they will withstand
And righteousness will have its say
And peace and light will rule the day
Nine minutes of lush progressive rock, album opener “Riding In Time” takes a heavy keyboard slant and joins it with a smoothly flowing melody to create quite the laid back listening experience. But it is not all keyboards in that subsequent to a spoken word interlude the song dives into a jam session in which Visaggio’s piano gives way to a meticulous run of lead guitar. I am almost reminded of Pink Floyd here.
“The Ascent” might be a bit “shorter” in comparison to “Riding In Time” (only eight minutes as opposed to nine!) but moves at the faster tempo with, of course, Visaggio’s ever present keyboards and Hammond B-3 decorating the backdrop. The song, at a moments notice, can descend into some dark and weighty passages before returning to an upbeat heading. Kansas comes to mind on this one.
“Now And Forever” takes a more hard rocking edge. The song begins to a jazz-fusion flavored instrumental opening only to even out upon reaching its first verse. Impetus does not return, however, until the rhythm guitar kicks in and carries things forward at the more decisive tempo. A sweeping instrumental passage features a punchy bass line mixed with a flowing piano and tastefully done lead work. I can see Neal Morse doing something like this.
The first of the albums two epics, the twelve and a half minute “Peace Of Mind, Peace Of Heart” flows a good part of its length instrumentally: A two and a half minute instrumental opening is joined by another three and a half minute jam session just past the halfway point. Closing things out is another two and a half minutes of instrumental jamming. In between, the song flows at a stately mid-paced clip with stretches of tight guitar harmony and highlighting piano and organ shoring things up. Occasional symphonic and Gospel touches add to the reverse scene.
“Meditation”, a very well done six minute acoustic instrumental, gives way to epic number two, the sixteen minute “Reconciliation”.
Kinetic Element, for a lack of better words, is all over the map on “Reconciliation”. Yes, this one also features its share of instrumental moments, with the first four minutes running the gamut from atmospheric guitars and synthesizers to jazzy tinctures with a punchy bass line. As for the remaining twelve, there are too many changes in time and tempo to go into adequate detail, but you will find your share of quieter piano driven interludes, others carried at the more upbeat tempo by an organ and added atmospheric instrumental passages, including one featuring a trade off between a piano and spicy lead guitar.
Closing things out is the ten minute “See The Children”. Getting underway to a lengthy amalgamating of keyboards and some edgy rhythm guitar, the song flows its distance at an upbeat tempo to a pleasing melody supported by some layered backing vocals and more of Russell’s accentuating lead guitar. Am I out of line to suggest a comparison to Yes is invited in the process?
Powered By Light is a good progressive rock album. I enjoy the instrumental proclivity of Kinetic Element while the material here holds up well despite a trend towards the lengthy side of things. If you enjoy any form of progressive based music or simply need a break from the metal/hard rock genres then by all means give this the chance it deserves.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Riding In Time” (9:06), “The Ascent” (8:21), “Now And Forever” (7:29), “Peace Of Mind, Peace Of Heart” (12:22), “Meditation” (5:54), “Reconciliation” (16:08), “See The Children” (9:58)
Mike Visaggio – Lead Vocals, Piano, Organ, Synthesizers & Mellotron
Todd Russell – Guitars
Tony D’Amato – Bass
Michael Murray - Drums